Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Once again proving I am the worst at having a long-form blog.

I'm about to enter the sixth week of my internship, which means I haven't so much as thought about this blog in over five week.  Oops?  Typical Irina, really.

Aside from being very broke and a little bit lonely, summer has been going well for me.  This internship is kind of the greatest thing.  A lot of the time is spent goofing off, which I feel 50/50 about.  The thing is: of course I'm 21 years old, surrounded by other 20somethings, and we like spending time laughing at the news and finding Wikipedia pages for strange things like helicopter prison escapes.  But I also like being productive, which only one other intern has expressed interest in.  So I'm having a bit of a hard time with that.  But!  When I do get to be productive, it's just about the best thing in the world.

After my two weeks on the social media rotation, I was finally put into archives!  I spent two glorious weeks scanning lots of old stuff (Confederate bank notes, WWII war bonds, Revolutionary War supply grants) and updating entries on PastPerfect (this is the program most museums use to catalog their collections.)  Digitizing collections is something I find really important.  Yes, many collections are very safe now that there are all sorts of technologies to prevent fires, etc.  (The system at the museum is kind of scary.  It apparently sucks all of the oxygen out of the room, so it can definitely make you at least pass out if you ignore the warning bells.)  But there is also something important about access.  Not many people are going to travel to New York to view the archives at the museum - though we have had a couple walk-ins requesting to see our records for upcoming books.  The scans we're making now are eventually going to go up on Flickr, creating worldwide access to records but also informing many people that an actual museum exists for this stuff.  Cause let's face it, not many people come through this particular museum unless they have interest in the subject matter.

Anyway!  I am now on the third rotation - education and visitor services.  The interns thus far have created a massive Amazing Race-like scavenger hunt which is going to take place at the end of July.  Contestants will be given clues to help them identify Lower Manhattan landmarks where they must then race to receive more clues.  There is even a cash prize!  So my partner and I have inherited this project, and now we have to iron out all the hiccups.  The clues are a bit too difficult, in my opinion, and we don't really know yet how teams will get the next clues.  Plus we want to mix up clues so teams aren't just following each other around the city. And there was discussion of banning smart phones.

Although all of this is interesting, I was really happy to be allowed to get back into the archives last Friday.  I'm glad they recognized my complete incompetence in attempting to work out a scavenger hunt on my own.  Friday I was sitting with one of the 18th Century Collections boxes and a big book on early American money, trying to identify and appraise currency.  Life is kind of sweet.

And since this is no longer just an academic blog, here's some other cool stuff going on this summer.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Highs and Lows of Interning

So I've decided to hold on to this blog for the time being.  First, because I picked an awesome name.  Second, because I really don't have anywhere else to long-form blog.  Oh, and I acquired a few followers from the tattoo post, which is strange but nice!  I hope I don't scare you guys off.

It's officially summer (has been for a while, I guess) but I finally started my internship this past week.  I'm working at the Museum of American Finance right here in New York City.  Unfortunately, the internship is unpaid and I haven't had any luck finding part-time work.  But!  This internship rules!  I've only been going for a week, but I've already learned a lot and met some great people.

To start off: I'm an undergraduate intern working with six other people (some from fancy places like Brown and Columbia) through rotations in three museum processes.  I've been partnered off and am currently working in social media - aka a lot of tweeting.  Which is strange because I don't even have my own twitter account   But I've definitely gotten the hang of it!  Though I am looking forward to moving on to the next rotation after this week - either exhibits and archives or visitors services and education.

Obviously, I cannot wait to get my hands on the archives.  On Friday, the day with the smallest number of interns, my boss Becky grabbed myself and another girl to go down to the archives and put some things away.  At some point I was holding a land grant signed by William Penn just going "Oh my god oh my god oh my god."  Oh and there was a check signed by JFK!  My fellow intern was also freaking out which made me feel better about what a huge geek I am.

I've also been learning a lot about financial history without really having to try, which is nice.  Coming into this internship, I didn't know how interested I would be.  Yes, I love Atlantic history, but a lot of this stuff is post-revolutionary, which is more of a hobby for me than my actual focus.  Except for everything Alexander Hamilton, of course.  But now I know a lot about stocks and bonds and markets and the Federal Reserve.  Oh, like did you know the Secret Service was created as an anti-counterfeiting measure?  Lincoln signed the agency into existence only one day before he was assassinated.  Bad luck, huh?

I think this might be sufficient for the time being.  Though I do have to say, after being on a computer all day at work, it's been increasingly difficult to even think about coming home and going online for hours.  I can't tell if that's a good or a bad thing.  All I know is that my eyes always hurt.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Tattoo Paper!

So below is the tattoo paper.  For those who are not Jane - I'm posting it here because many people who took my survey expressed interest in reading the final product.  It's really long, about 18 pages, so I've also made PDFs of it and the appendix (which contains surveys in full which I quoted) for easier reading.  PDFs can be downloaded here (paper) and here (appendix).  Enjoy?  Also, I have a Creative Commons license on this blog, so please do not take my work without crediting me?  Thank you!

American Studies and the Survey

One of the reasons I have been so stressed over the La Malinche paper is because - shocking news! - I am taking more than one class this semester.  Two of my classes required major research projects for their completion.  For my American Studies course, I went on a somewhat different journey.  While I did stick to women, I ended up writing about modern American tattoo culture and the perceptions of the female body within it/due to it.  I researched a lot of history and theory about tattooing and the female body, but I also wanted tattooed individuals to recount their own personal stories so I could include them in my paper.  I made an online survey and ended up with over 1800 replies.  This will all be explained in depth in the paper (which will be posted on this blog shortly).

But there was another aspect about the survey which really threw me off.  When I made it, I expected about 20-50 responses.  Obviously, I got far more than I bargained for.  This is a completely new field of research for me - I am used to dusty books and online databases, not individual responses.  The survey I made was a bit flawed.  One person pointed out to me that some of my questions were leading, which I completely understand.  I was very clearly trying to gather answers which would make it easier to prove my thesis, which was a bit shaky at the very least.  

The thing that was really surprising, however, was the amount of responses I received.  I spoke about the phenomenon in a footnote in the paper:

Simply said, I did not expect such an outpouring of assistance  Not only were nearly 2,000 members of the internet community willing to fill out the survey, but many of the responses went into depth about personal experiences.  These were not yes or no questions.  Various survey responders expressed regret in not being able to give more thorough answers because of their own limited experiences, wished me luck in the paper writing process, and requested to see a finished version of this project upon its completion.  Many talked in depth about the meaning of tattooing in their own lives, its views in society, and considered the implications of gender within tattoo culture.  The popularity of the survey and peoples’ willingness to discuss body modification was astounding.  At one point, it was tempting to completely switch the topic of my paper to analyze why people would be so willing to take time out of their day to talk about tattooing.  Though this is not the point of my paper, I would like to question what it is about tattoo culture that makes most people extremely willing to discuss and display their modifications.  Or does this immense response have something to do with internet culture in general – having a forum where someone is interested enough in you to follow your blog and care about what you have to say over the other six billion people in the world?  The survey itself felt like a Wallace ‘special-for-me’ experience.  People answered it as if they were speaking directly to me, and many left their e-mail addresses offering a way to contact them for more information if necessary.  In the end, with only a little over a week to complete this paper, I was not able to read every single response.  While the answers were ‘special-for-me’, their reception to date has not been.  In the future, I would be interested in analyzing a large portion of these replies, but it was not possible for the exploration of this paper.  The answers I will be quoting for the most part come from question number six: “Do you think your gender presentation affected the stranger’s decision to touch you?  Do you think they would have acted differently if your gender presentation was different?”  This question really seemed to get to the heart of the problem I am attempting to analyze, and the answers to this particular question allowed me to sort the responses in the most efficient way.  The magnitude of response, however, has made me think about the degree of importance in my research and whether this survey will be useful for future projects within my academic career.    

This form of research was eye-opening to me and made me a little glad that my normal sources are not members of the internet community.  Although the surveys were very helpful, it was incredibly overwhelming and sometimes frustrating to read them. 

And I will be posting the paper next!  And stuff. 

It has been a difficult few weeks, but at least it is over?  Yes.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Post-Paper Thoughts.

Having nearly a week to step away from the final paper has not done too much for my nerves. Writing (and even more so, revising) this paper has been one of the most stressful experiences during my time at Bard. I cannot begin to image what senior project is going to be like - I cannot even think about my project topic right now because sometimes it feels like it has already taken over my entire life. Which it somewhat has.

Overall, I am happy with how my paper turned out. It is, of course, weak in some aspects. Working on finals for so long made revision even harder to deal with, and in the end I only did about half of what I wanted to do. However, I am really proud of the work I did on identifying the ideas behind historical exile/exile from history. I had not realized how unclear this idea was until Tabetha pointed out the flaws in my original wording (historical exile). I guess it became a term that I made up out of nowhere? People do that, right? And if I am going to continue on this track with my senior project, defining terms is going to be really important. It just sort of blows my mind that I came up with this terminology just to be able to write this specific paper for a very specific class, and it somehow worked. The magic of liberal arts! (Emphasis on the liberal.)

The other part of the paper that I spent a lot of time reworking was the conclusion. With help from Jane, I went in an entirely new direction and kind of attacked the Oxford History of Mexico. It was by far the most pleasant part for me to write after the definition of exile from history. The things that do not need citation really get me typing quickly and thinking even faster.

After working on these two sections for a long time, I gave up. I spent about a day thinking I was done, that I could not do any more. And then Tabetha informed the class that she was extending the deadline – to today, actually. I knew I was leaving, but something about that e-mail gave me the push to put another couple hours into the work. I ended up working from an entirely new source. Of course it turned out to be one of those situations where I wondered why I had not used it from the beginning. But it worked out! And that is what is important!

Overall, I have had an interesting semester trying to get through this paper and on to the next step. I have about a third of a bibliography for my senior project and a lot more direction than I did at the beginning of this semester. And of course, I learned how to research a lot better! I could not have done half of this work without Jane teaching me all about research. I actually ended up also helping a few of my friends out.
So yes, a couple more posts to go. I am going to switch gears for a bit and talk about another form of research in my next post! Until then.


So we survived the rapture, but more importantly: this paper has been done for nearly a week.  And here it is:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Yeah here it is, my first draft of my La Malinche paper.  Jane, I hope I have humored you enough.  Title is: The Enemy Within: The Transformations of La Malinche within the Twentieth Century Chicano Movement

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